N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) As A Nootropic

N Acetylcysteine NAC As A Nootropic

N-acetylcysteine is one of the most interesting substances being used for its nootropic properties. Users report a wide variety of benefits including increased focus, decreased anxiety, and improved mood. It has a long history of use in medicine and an excellent safety profile. And there is plenty of science to support its effectiveness.

In this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look at N-acetylcysteine. We’ll look at its history, safety, nootropic benefits, and more. But first, let’s see what N-acetylcysteine is.

What Is N-Acetylcysteine?

This substance has a long history of use in America and around the world. N-acetylcysteine, sometimes referred to as just acetylcysteine or NAC for short, was first patented in 1960 and started being used medically in 1968. It’s on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines, which catalogs the safest and most-effective drugs being used worldwide.

N-acetylcysteine has primarily been used in medicine to treat acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning. However, in recent years, doctors have been prescribing NAC for a variety of off-label reasons. And nootropic users have started using this interesting substance for its cognition-enhancing properties.

NAC has been studied as a treatment for a variety of disorders including various drug-and-other addictions (nicotine, cocaine, cannabis, methamphetamine, gambling), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and many more. Most of these studies have shown it to reduce the symptoms of these disorders. Given acetylcysteine’s mechanisms of action, this isn’t surprising.


N-acetylcysteine is a precursor to the antioxidant glutathione. It modulates glutamate, a neurotransmitter that is involved in several cognitive functions including learning and memory. N-acetylcysteine has also been shown to affect the way dopamine is released in certain parts of the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in motivation, pleasure, and learning.

Given NAC’s mechanisms of action, it’s not surprising that it has nootropic properties. The benefits that users report are consistent with the way NAC works in the brain. Let’s look at some of the nootropic benefits of acetylcysteine.

The Nootropic Benefits of N-Acetylcysteine

Over the past few years, NAC has become somewhat popular in the nootropics community. Users have reported improved mood, decreased anxiety, reduced symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, clearer thinking, and other benefits. But what does the science have to say about these benefits?

NAC Benefits

A study published in 2009 found that NAC was able to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and decrease obsessive-compulsive symptoms in people with trichotillomania. This is an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable hair pulling/picking. NAC was given to people diagnosed with trichotillomania in doses ranging from 1,200-2,400 milligrams (mg) a day for 12 weeks. The researchers found that NAC significantly reduced symptoms and improved the quality of life for many participants. And the participants given NAC showed no serious side effects.

This study supports what many nootropic users have reported about NAC: that it helps them to think clearer and reduces unwanted internal chatter. A lot of the nootropic users who find NAC to be beneficial often report suffering from depression, anxiety, OCD, and difficulty in social situations. Many claim that it works better than any prescription medications they’ve tried. Other human studies have also shown that NAC was able to reduce obsessive thinking and other types of anxiety.

Whether or not NAC has a nootropic effect in healthy individuals is less clear. Some users report many of the benefits listed above while others don’t notice any improvement in cognitive performance. And no studies have been done yet to see if NAC has nootropic properties. The only way to know if it will work for you is to try it yourself.

N-Acetylcysteine Side Effects

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Most nootropic users who have tried NAC do not report experiencing any side effects. Those that do experience side effects often report that they are mild and go away as soon as NAC is discontinued.

The most common side effects of NAC are nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal problems. If you experience any of these side effects, try taking NAC with food. Most people who experience these side effects find that taking NAC with food significantly reduces or eliminates them.

N-Acetylcysteine Dosage

Human studies have shown NAC to be very safe when taken orally at recommended dosages. Most human studies that showed a benefit to using NAC used dosages of 1,200-3,600 mg a day. This is the same dosage range that nootropic users find to be beneficial.

N-acetylcysteine is usually taken in one-or-two doses a day. Most people find it’s best to take it earlier in the day. Taking NAC in the morning and then again in the afternoon seems to be the most-common way to dose it.

As always, you should start with a low dose and work your way up as needed. Some users report improved mood and reduced anxiety with as little as 600 mg once a day. Others say that they don’t notice much until they raise the dose to 1,800 mg twice a day. The only way to know what will work for you is to try it yourself.

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